There are some themes and motifs running right the way through Christian belief including:
1. The church [meaning the sum total of believers] is always going to be perverted from the course outlined in scripture and will follow charismatic men's interpretations about what scripture says rather than what it actually says - and followers will accept this on the strength of the leaders' esoteric knowledge of theology.
In other words, the high priests and cardinals will say that such 'n such is the Word and it will be believed by the majority of believers. This will not be accepted by both infidels nor by the tiniest minority of believers. Strange bedfellows, the infidel and the Christian thinker.
The result of this is that the “moral majority” will turn on the minority believer and, at the behest of the leaders, ostracize that person and turn a deaf ear to his/her words. The infidel chuckles at this because it achieves the same effect they desire - inuring people against the Word.
These Charismatics, seeming holy men but actually anything but, are the “false prophets” referred to in the gospels and the warning is that even “the very elect” will be fooled by their signs and “miracles”. But if one analyses the sum effect of the signs and words and looks at the nature of the miracles, it will be possible to see through false messages.
You'll know them by their fruits.
Thus, miracles like the changing of the water in Nairobi or celestial wonders might not stem from the Messiah or his prophet at all but from quite achievable set-ups plus one more thing – the sign will not be of a genuinely “healing nature”. That is, Lazarus will not be able to take up his bed and walk but it will be either a clever effect or it will look very much as if Lazarus did take up his bed and walk [whilst in fact he was never dead in the first place].
In other words, the believers will be fooled.
2. Another sign that something is wrong is the moment money comes into the equation and when Churches [the buildings] glitter with gold, when pardons are sold, when the leaders ride in Mercedes, when mass congregations chant in unison, when the charismatic overrides the simple Word of scripture.
The mass movement of people for any cause, taking them from homes and families and creating a "greater good" [which is a key Christian motif anyway] is dangerous, highly dangerous because an enormous pool of devotees seeking for signs can be easily hijacked, diverted and fleeced.
This is why, for such as these, only scripture itself is safe, particularly the gospels.
The instant the credit card comes into the conversation too, that's the time to exit. Collection plates are one thing – they've always been but are open to abuse, i.e. the congregation sees how much you've put in the plate and the credit donation is so open to abuse. About the only genuine collection is the opaque box at the entrance to the Church where no duress is placed on visitors.
3. Yet another motif is that Christians, by definition, believe that society will slowly degrade to the point where all sorts of profanities begin to exist on a more or less mass scale, e.g. pre-marital sex, drugs, violence, disrespect, role models turned on their heads [e.g. Paris Hiltons rather than Dr. Livingstones], deviant promiscuity [this is a big motif], lawlessness, idolatry, false gods like shopping centres [the palaces of glitz], rampant materialism and so on.
Trouble is that Christians have always seen end-time scenarios – in Roman times, with Napoleon, with Hitler – there've always be cogent arguments for this being The End - but a reading of the gospels indicates clearly that we won't know when that is. He'll come “like a thief in the night”.
Even here people seek their own comfort e.g. the widespread belief that when the oppression starts [as Revelations indicates opaquely], all true believers will be plucked up to Heaven [pre-tribulationists] and the infidels will be left to cook in sulphur fires and to suffer all manner of pestilence.
For a start, how can the pre-tribulationists know that and secondly, how does that accord with “suffering” for Christ, enduring things for His sake? Pre-tribulation is a cushy way of armchair travel, i.e. we can't be touched because we're protected.
4. This is not how I read scripture. I read it that there will be great vicissitudes, that people will mock and oppress anyone who preaches a grim scenario [because let's face it, no one wants to hear bad news] but that what faith brings is comfort in times of trouble.
It doesn't inure the believer against trouble itself, it doesn't deliver him/her from it but it does provide a way of coping with it - real comfort in troubled times. That's its overwhelming plus - Christianity. Not just redemption in Heaven [and boy, I'm going to need all the redemption I can get] but real succour and one more thing – inner strength.
This is what infidels can never forgive, nor the deluded and misled believers who think they're true believers [after all, they attend Church and give money] but they don't seem to have this inner power. They can never forgive the person who simply followed the instruction manual and “submitted' [the Islam motif too] to the Word, thereby gaining this strength, this serenity.
And yet, look at the saints through history – driven people, uncompromising in what they said, inconvenient things in the eyes of the powers that be [will no one rid me of this turbulent priest], inconvenient things to the comfort seeking populace – and saints always come a cropper in the end, burnt for their beliefs. Savonarola, Joan of Arc maybe, perhaps Thomas More.
It's a constant motif, easily recognizable. The real Christian lives dangerously, a voice in the wilderness, he/she's vilified.
But is he/she technically mad? I say he/she's no more mad than the sheep following a false messiah. He/she's definitely different to the multitude but more likely to be a reformed sinner than a born saint. If tending to the sufferings of the weak and vulnerable can be termed madness, if taking a different tack to the multitude, knowing it will bring trouble down on the household is mad, then he/she is mad.
5. The notion of exclusivity is a huge problem, theologically and socially. Are those of another faith, e.g. Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, condemned to hellfire because they don't accept Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah?
Logic dictates not. Logic dictates that these people would be categorized as innocents and who knows, maybe they're given another chance later. Maybe when all is revealed, the true nature of affairs will encompass all of these anomalies.
Through the gospels run compassion and concern for one's fellow man. It's most certainly not manifested in condemnation until one comes to Paul, with whom I have great problems. This is why I prefer to stick to the gospels although Paul did say some intelligent things.
And so, finally, to the point of this post and well done if you've got this far:
6. The motif of evangelism and the problems arising from that. From the New York Times comes this story of Anchorage early in October:
[A] soaring white canvas dome with room for a soccer field and a 400-meter track. Its prime-time hours are already rented well into 2011. Nearby is a cold-storage facility leased to Sysco, a giant food-distribution corporation, and beside it is a warehouse serving a local contractor and another food service company.7. The Charismatic. It's an interesting article - 6 - and though the reasons seem, in Christian terms, to be valid and cogent, one needs to be careful. It may well be that these are not the end times we're entering now but it sure looks like it.
The entrepreneur behind these businesses is the ChangePoint ministry, a 4,000-member nondenominational Christian congregation that helped develop and finance the sports dome. It has a partnership with Sysco’s landlord and owns the warehouse.
The church’s leaders say they hope to draw people to faith by publicly demonstrating their commitment to meeting their community’s economic needs.
Among the nation’s so-called megachurches — those usually Protestant congregations with average weekly attendance of 2,000 or more — ChangePoint’s appetite for expansion into many kinds of businesses is hardly unique.
An analysis by The New York Times of the online public records of just over 1,300 of these giant churches shows that their business interests are as varied as basketball schools, aviation subsidiaries, investment partnerships and a limousine service. But the entrepreneurial activities of churches pose questions for their communities that do not arise with secular development.
These enterprises, whose sponsoring churches benefit from a variety of tax breaks and regulatory exemptions given to religious organizations in this country, sometimes provoke complaints from for-profit businesses with which they compete — as ChangePoint’s new sports center has in Anchorage.
And when these ventures succeed — when local amenities like shops, sports centers, theaters and clinics are all provided in church-run settings and employ mostly church members — people of other faiths may feel shut out of a significant part of a town’s life, some religion scholars said.
Churches have long played an economic role ... but the expanding economic life of today’s giant churches is distinctive. First, they are active in less expected places: in largely flourishing suburbs and barely developed acreage far beyond cities’ beltways and in communities far from the Southern Bible Belt with which they are traditionally associated.
Scott L. Thumma, a pioneer in the study of megachurches at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, whose roster of churches was the basis for the Times analysis, said he has noticed churches that sponsor credit unions, issue credit cards and lend to small businesses.
Although community outreach is almost always cited as the primary motive, these economic initiatives may also indicate that giant churches are seeking sources of revenue beyond the collection plate to support their increasingly elaborate programs, suggested Mark A. Chaves, a religious sociologist at Duke University.
Also feeding this wave of economic activity is the growing supply of capital available to religious congregations. ChangePoint paid $1 million upfront and borrowed $23.5 million from a state economic development agency to buy a defunct seafood-packaging plant and warehouse out of foreclosure in July 2005.
To do so, it formed a partnership with the for-profit owner of the cold-storage unit surrounded by the seafood plant’s land. An affiliated nonprofit is developing the sports dome with a gift of $4 million worth of church land. The church controls these entities directly or through board appointments, said Scott Merriner, executive pastor and a former McKinsey consultant.
Just how far-reaching the megachurch economy can become is clear at the First Assembly of God Church in Concord, a small community northeast of Charlotte. Under the umbrella of First Assembly Ministries are the church, with 2,500 in weekly attendance; a 180-bed assisted-living center; a private school for more than 800 students; a day-care center for 115 children; a 22-acre retreat center; and a food service — all nonprofit.
In addition, there is WC Properties, a for-profit unit that manages the church’s shopping center, called Community at the Village, where a Subway outlet, an eye-care shop and other businesses share space with church programs that draw traffic to the mall.
Given that, we need to be on the lookout for the false messiahs [plural], the Hitlers who will appear to be the nation's saviours but turn out to be anything but. They'll appear at a time of low national morale, when the leadership is riddled with corruption and no one really knows where they're going.
They'll appear at the last moment, just when things seemingly can't get worse and when people are roaming around like lost sheep, when the Word has effectively fallen into disuse and all reference to it [e.g. Christmas] is being actively suppressed throughout the community and on the net.
They'll be charismatic, thes messiahs, seeming to have the answers, which is the reason I can never be one of these – I don't have any answers within myself. I'm just a miserable sinner like the next man but I can point you to one of the answers if you wish because I've seen it working.
So I'm waiting for the seemingly great Man of Integrity to arise, knowing it's neither Brown nor Bush but will be someone everyone thinks is a really cool dude because he'll have an air of being in charge, of having the answers. I can't see it being Clinton because she's vilified by so many already.
It will be someone who seems to talk “eminent sense” but part of that “sense” will be suppression of ALL religion [meaning Christianity as the main target] because religion has caused more wars and so on and so on.
He'll [and I think it wil be a He because half the population will not follow a She] be eminently reasonable in suggesting that we need to be chipped for our own security against dangerous insurgents within our communities, that everything will be fine as long as we don't rock the boat and listen to free thinkers [labelled terrorists]. He'll start on the intelligentsia and scientists and work his way through the community.
This is not theological in the least. This is just a rehashing of the history of nations. The only thing I can say is to be aware. That's all.